Gateway to the Classics: The Story of France by Mary Macgregor
The Story of France by  Mary Macgregor

The Two Lily Princes

During the next ten years France was ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy and Bern.

The Lily Princes wished to remain at peace with England, so they encouraged Richard ii., son of the Black Prince, to ask for the hand of little Isabelle, the daughter of Charles vi.

Isabelle was only ten years old, but she was a wise little princess, who early learned to speak with courtly ease. The English ambassador, who had come to France on his master's behalf, kneeling before the child, said, "Madame, please God you shall be our sovereign lady and Queen of England."

Whereupon the maiden answered, "If it please God and my lord and father that I should be Queen of England, I would be willingly, for I have certainly been told that I should then be a great lady."

In March 1396 Richard ii. and Isabelle were married, and a truce was then signed which was to last for twenty-eight years. But three years later King Richard was deposed, and Henry Bolingbroke then became Henry iv. of England. Isabelle was sent back to France.

Ten years passed, and then Charles vi. , being a little better, determined that his brother the Duke of Orleans should become regent, as was his right. But Orleans taxed the people so heavily that they turned to the Duke of Burgundy, who loved France, and cared for the rights of the citizens. Orleans was forced to retire. Even the king, when he was well, agreed that after all it was better that his uncle should again become regent. From this time, however, the Duke of Burgundy and his nephew, the Duke of Orleans, were rivals and hated one another.

Unhappily, soon after this, Philip, Duke of Burgundy, died, and his son John the Fearless became duke. John hated Louis of Orleans even more than his father had done, and was determined to become regent in his stead.

At first the Duke of Orleans proved so much more powerful than John the Fearless that John was persuaded to make peace with his rival. But it was not a real peace, though the two dukes swore to be friends, heard Mass, and took the Sacrament together in November 1409.

Before the winter was over, John, Duke of Burgundy, broke his vow of friendship, and that in a most treacherous manner.

For one evening the Duke of Orleans, after having dined with Queen Isabelle, was riding home, attended only by two squires and a few servants carrying torches, when suddenly eighteen or twenty armed men rushed out of an alley in which they had been hiding, and attacked the duke, shouting, "Death! death!"

Haughty and indignant, Louis demanded what was the matter. Then, thinking that his name would cow the rough fellows, who had probably mistaken him for an enemy of their own, he said, "I am the Duke of Orleans."

"It is he whom we seek," was the unexpected answer, and in a moment the ruffians had struck the duke to the ground and slain him.

The Duke of Burgundy did not hide that the terrible deed had been done by his order. After confessing it to the Duke of Berri, he mounted his horse and, leaving Paris behind him, rode off unhindered to Burgundy.

But he did not stay there long. If he had ridden away for safety, he soon found he had nothing to fear in the capital. The citizens of Paris, who had hated the Duke of Orleans, were glad that he could trouble them no more; while for the Duke of Burgundy who had slain him, they had nothing but gratitude. Even the poor mad king said he was not angry with John the Fearless for murdering his brother, but perhaps he hardly knew what he was saying.

There was only one who really mourned the death of the Duke of Orleans, and that was his beautiful wife, Valentina, the lady who was always kind to the poor weak king.

She threw herself weeping at the feet of Charles, and demanded that her husband's murderer should be punished. The king wept with his "fair sister," but he had no power to help her.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Burgundy came back to Paris, and with him were a thousand men-at-arms. The people greeted him with joy, shouting lustily, "Long live the Duke of Burgundy!"

Being sure of the people, the duke, so confident he was, then wrote his own pardon, and easily persuaded King Charles to sign it. Charles even received him kindly, but warned the duke to guard himself against those who would never forgive his crime. To which the duke proudly answered, that "as long as he stood in the king's good graces he did not fear any man living."

There was certainly nothing to fear either from the king or the people. But Queen Isabelle had always been on good terms with the Duke of Orleans, and the duke determined to win her favour. In this, too, he was successful, and through the queen's goodwill he gained possession of Charles, the young dauphin.

But John the Fearless had an enemy, and that a determined one. This was the son of the man whom he had killed, Charles, the young Duke of Orleans.

Charles had married the daughter of Bernard of Armagnac, a count who had great power in the south of France. He, along with the Duke of Bern and other nobles, joined the Duke of Orleans in his struggle against John the Fearless.

As the Count of Armagnac was the leader of the Orleans party, those who followed him were called "Armagnacs." First one party was in power and then the other, and for many years the story of France is the story of the cruel deeds done by the Burgundians and the Armagnacs.

At length, in 1414, things began to go badly with the Duke of Burgundy. His followers were driven out of Paris, and even out of their own provinces, while the duke himself fled into Flanders, where he was forced to make terms with the Armagnacs.

The dauphin meanwhile was at Paris, enjoying himself too well to give heed to the quarrels of the nobles, and behaving as though he were already king.

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